|   Posted: May 05, 2022

Love has no limits, and motherhood extends beyond biology. This Mother’s Day, we honor women who love extravagantly despite unfathomable obstacles — women like Nadia, who was faced with a terrifying situation when she heard cries in the Rwandan bush.

Saving Sabine

Love has no limits, and motherhood extends beyond biology. This Mother’s Day, we honor women who love extravagantly despite unfathomable obstacles — women like Nadia, who was faced with a terrifying situation when she heard cries in the Rwandan bush.

mom and baby

Names have been changed to protect the identity of the family in this story. Images are representative only.

“He had run like he had seen a ghost,” Nadia remembers. “He came shouting, ‘It’s a baby — I think it’s going to die!’”

Nadia can’t share the story of finding Sabine without breaking down in tears. She remembers the day that Benjamin, a local man cutting down trees in the forest, found hours-old Sabine abandoned in the bush. He rushed into Nadia's home begging for help.

Benjamin came straight to Nadia because she was the community’s health worker at the time. She raced after Benjamin into the bush with kitenge (colorful African fabric) cloths in hand, ready for rescue.

“When I saw the baby, I grabbed her immediately. I wrapped her in the kitenge so that she could get warm after spending so many hours in the cold,” says Nadia.

a Compassion center

The health center was about a mile away. Baby clutched to her chest, Nadia ran the entire way.

The tiny, weak newborn was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit. She lay there for days while local leaders launched an investigation to find her family. When no one claimed the baby, the police asked Nadia and her husband, Gerard, if they would take her home with them. Nadia and Gerard didn’t hesitate.

Getting Support

They already had six children at home, including baby Gisele. They didn’t know how they would financially support them all. Yet they gave the police a resounding yes. “This baby is a gift from God,” says Gerard. “I know we have many children to take care of, but this baby didn’t have a home, and as Christians we are supposed to offer help to people who are vulnerable.”

At home, Nadia began breastfeeding both Gisele and Sabine, but it was challenging for the couple to provide for all their children. Compassion’s local church partner came alongside them. To help support the family, Sabine was registered into Compassion’s Survival initiative when she was 2 months old.

moms and their babies

The Survival initiative is Compassion’s earliest intervention within our holistic child development model, and it combats global infant mortality rates and promotes healthy early childhood development. The program helps children like Sabine during the first year of life when the risk is highest. At 1 year old, babies automatically move to Compassion’s Child Sponsorship Program.

Seven years later

Sabine is now 7 and enjoys all the benefits of being enrolled in the Child Sponsorship Program. Project Director Christine says Nadia and her family have raised Sabine with so much love. Beyond that, Sabine is thriving in the program. “Sabine is a happy and intelligent girl. She is always among the first five best students in her class based on all the report cards from school,” she says.

Wearing colorful dresses and matching plastic sandals, Sabine and Gisele throw a handmade ball into the air and chase after it, giggling. Nadia watches with a smile on her face. She’s so proud of her daughters. It’s hard to believe Sabine is the same little girl who lay in the intensive care unit for days as a newborn.

“The bond I have with Sabine is the same as the one I have with my biological children. I breastfed Sabine and Gisele. Sabine and Gisele believe they are twins because I have photos of both of them breastfeeding at the same time,” she says.

Due to her young age and the difficult circumstances surrounding how she joined their family, Sabine has not yet been told her story. However, as she is growing older, her family knows the time has come. Nadia feels overwhelmed at the prospect of sharing Sabine’s history with her, but project staff at Sabine's Compassion Center are helping connect the family with a therapist so they can find the best way to share the news.

children play in a field

Project Director Christine is ready to provide the assistance that Sabine and her family will need. “We are praying that her knowing her story will not affect the relationship she has with her foster parents. We will give her all the support she needs to overcome the trauma that will be caused by her story,” she says.

A forever daughter

Meanwhile, Nadia and Gerard have begun the legal process of officially gaining custody of their miracle daughter. “Although we have raised her for the last seven years, the government asked us to go to court to contest her custody. We have started the process, and we are grateful to the project staff and Compassion for walking this journey with us,” says Nadia.

Although shy, Sabine is eloquent, and the bond she has with her nearly-twin sister Gisele is rock solid. “When I grow up, I want to be a journalist. I want to be a radio presenter and work at Kiss FM,” she says. “I enjoy listening to the radio.”

Although Sabine’s story has a heartbreaking beginning, her future shines bright thanks to the love and support she receives from her family and her Compassion center. We especially celebrate Nadia and all women whose sacrificial love extends beyond biology.

Author: Doreen Umutesi, Compassion Rwanda Photojournalist